Building On The Past
Updated: Jun 1, 2019
Written by Clint Kimberling | Photographed by Joe Worthem
All around Oxford, businesses operate in buildings with long and colorful histories.
JONES AT HOME
1005 Jackson Avenue East
This antebellum house was built in 1848 in the Roman Gothic style. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant supposedly made the house his headquarters during the Union occupation of Oxford. Owner Andy Phillips said the home has been in his family since the 1960s when it was purchased by his father, and was once a boarding house. Since 2014 the house has been occupied by furniture and home decor retailer Jones at Home.
613 South Lamar Boulevard
The pink Queen Anne house on South Lamar is still known to many Oxford residents as the Kangaroo’s Pouch, since it once housed a gift shop by that name. Built around 1890, the house was once owned by Eugenia McLaurin, who taught piano lessons there for many years. In October 2018, the Argent Trust Company, a financial planning business, opened its office in the National Historic Landmark Building.
1101 Jackson Avenue East
This award-winning restaurant on Jackson Avenue near the north side of the Square is remembered by many as Wiley’s Shoe Shop, and before that, Boles. Owner Herbert Wiley not only cobbled shoes and repaired leather — he was also a blues musician and performed with the band Wiley and the Checkmates. According to Katherine Kenwright, historic preservationist for the City of Oxford, records indicate that the building housed a series of cafes: Morgan’s B&B Cafe, Pelican Cafe and Blue Moon Cafe. Going back even further, it housed “Rufus the barber,” and according to an 1890s map, a meat market.
1013 Jackson Avenue East
Also located on Jackson Avenue, the Queen Anne style house was built in 1885 by U.S. Sen. W.V. Sullivan and L.Q.C. Lamar. The building served as law offices for more than 100 years. From 1905-1962 it was owned by the law firm of James Stone & Sons. One of the Stone sons, Phil, famously mentored William Faulkner. The building is written about in “The Sound and the Fury” and secretaries there typed some of Faulkner’s early novels. It’s been occupied by the staff of Visit Oxford since 2015, but law books from its earlier days still line the walls.
THE THOMPSON HOUSE
103 North Lamar Boulevard
The Thompson House hotel opened in 1870. It was built by Macon Thompson, son of Congressman and Confederate secret agent Jacob Thompson, on the site of Oxford’s very first hotel, the Oxford Inn, which was burned along with most of the Square during Gen. Grant’s raid in 1864. It operated as The Majestic Hotel, and later the Colonial Hotel, for many years. Condemned in the 1970s, the building was purchased and refurbished by Grady Tollison, who restored a balcony that had been on the front and side of the hotel, and combined the space with the adjacent Monroe Building into a single structure. Hotel room numbers can still be found on some of the third floor doors. Located at the corner of North Lamar and the Courthouse Square, the building is now occupied by the Tollison Law Firm and its downstairs tenants Yaya’s Frozen Yogurt and A Look Ahead Eyewear.
119 Courthouse Square
The J.E. Neilson Co. department store opened in its current location in 1897 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The business itself dates back to 1839, when William Neilson set up shop in a log cabin on the north side of the Square. In 1864 the store was burned by Gen. Grant along with most of the Square. The store reopened in 1866, and moved to its current location 31 years later. William Lewis started working at the store in 1912 and became a partner in 1915; William Lewis Jr. bought the business in 1964. This year Neilson’s is celebrating 180 years in operation.
114 Courthouse Square
The building on the corner of Courthouse Square is now occupied by Oxford Grillehouse and its upstairs neighbor Rooster Blues House. Prior to that it housed Jennie’s Hallmark and before that, Shaw & Sneed Hardware. But this building was also Oxford’s first federal jail — and there are still jail cells located in the basement. And Dr. Felix Linder, who counted William Faulkner among his patients, had a medical office on the second floor. The stairs leading to the upstairs balcony were featured prominently in the 1949 film adaptation of Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust.”